Concept

J. Thomas Looney

Summary
John Thomas Looney (luni) (14 August 1870 – 17 January 1944) was an English school teacher who is notable for having originated the Oxfordian theory, which claims that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550–1604) was the true author of Shakespeare's plays. Looney came from a Methodist religious background, but later converted to the rationalistic Religion of Humanity, becoming a leader of its church in Tyneside. After the failure of the local church, Looney turned to the Shakespeare authorship question, publishing in 1920 his theory that de Vere was the author of most of the poems and plays published in Shakespeare's name. He later argued that de Vere had also written works published under the names of other poets. Looney was born in South Shields to John Thomas and Annie Looney. His father had a shoe-making shop at 91 West Holborn in the centre of the town. Both his parents were Methodists. His family came from the Isle of Man and claimed descent from the Earls of Derby. He grew up in a strong evangelical environment, and determined to become a minister at the age of 16. While studying at the Chester Diocesan College, he lost his faith. He later embraced the theories of the positivist philosopher Auguste Comte, becoming a proponent of the Comtean "Religion of Humanity" and a leader in the short-lived Church of Humanity, an independent British branch of the religion, in which he pioneered outdoor preaching. The Church of Humanity gave special prominence to Shakespeare, naming a month after him in the Positivist calendar, and placing a bust of him in its place of worship. Looney worked as a school teacher in Gateshead. He is listed in Ward's Directory for 1899–1900 as a teacher living at 119 Rodsley Avenue, Gateshead. He later resided at 15 Laburnum Gardens, Low Fell. After the failure of the Comtean church, Looney devoted himself to research into the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. He developed his theory during World War I, depositing his claim to priority in a sealed document at the British Museum in 1918.
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